Death toll triples to more than 300 in China’s catastrophic floods

Bouquets of flowers are crowded together.
Bouquets of flowers pay tribute to people who died when a subway in Zhengzhou, China, was flooded after a record-breaking downpour.
(Dake Kang / Associated Press)

More than 300 people died in recent flooding in central China, authorities said Monday, three times the previously announced toll.

The Henan provincial government said 302 people died and 50 remained missing. The vast majority of the victims were in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, where 292 died and 47 were missing. Ten others died in three other cities, officials said at a news conference in Zhengzhou.

Record rainfall inundated the city July 20, turning streets into rushing rivers and flooding at least part of a subway line. Video posted online showed vehicles being washed away and desperate people trapped in subway cars as the waters rose. Fourteen people died in the subway flooding.


The previous death toll, announced Friday, was 99.

Authorities said 189 people were killed by floods and mudslides, 54 in house collapses and 39 in underground areas such as basements, garages and subway Line 5. The death toll remained at six in an expressway tunnel from which 247 vehicles were removed as it was drained.

Wang Kai, the governor of Henan province, expressed condolences to the victims and their families on behalf of the Henan Communist Party committee.

Henan adheres to a familiar formula in Xi Jinping’s China: Authorities turn tragedy into triumph, while controlling victims’ narratives.

July 28, 2021

The worst came after Zhengzhou was hit by 8 inches of rain in one hour, starting at 4 p.m. July 20, overwhelming the already-drenched city. Children were trapped in schools, and stranded people stayed in their workplaces overnight.

The rains headed north in the following days, hitting the Henan cities of Hebi, Anyang and Xinxiang. Seven people died and three were missing in Xinxiang, where record rains dropped more than 10 inches of water in a 19-hour period.

Authorities said that about 625,000 acres of crops were destroyed and estimated losses at more than 90 billion yuan ($14 billion). About 1.5 million people were evacuated because of the rains and flooding.

The central government has set up an investigation team to evaluate the disaster response, summarize the lessons from it and hold accountable anyone guilty of dereliction of duty, Chinese media said.